Joseph Wills Philadelphia Tall Case Clock Story

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by TheTickTockDoc, Nov 3, 2019.

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  1. TheTickTockDoc

    TheTickTockDoc Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 9, 2009
    New Port Richey, Florida USA
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    (This is a re-post from my Facebook business page)

    Hello Friends! It's always a treat to come across a rare, and old American clock. I was asked to take a look, and if possible, bring this beauty back to life. It an exceptionally tall Philadelphia tall case clock. At almost nine feet tall, with it's original top pediment, most of us would have a hard time finding a place for it to fit in our homes. As a matter of fact, this owner can't quite fit the top pediment and final on. The clock was made by Joseph Wills, 1700-1759, who lived on 3rd South of Arch Street in Philadelphia. He had no children, so we can assume that the clock was made between 1725 and 1759. That's pre-Revolutionary War! It's at least 260 years old. The dial has it's original hands, black wax and silvering, with a date wheel below the Wills' name plate. It also features a portrait of, maybe the man who purchased the clock? It has a typical unmarked tall case movement. I'm not sure that the movement is original, although the maker is known for using an English looking movement, and that was my initial maybe it is original. The case is in unusually good shape for it's age.

    When I walked in, the weights and pendulum were not installed. I was told that the clock hadn't been running in, maybe more than fifty years. It has been in the owner's family for many generations. The children thought the portrait was spooky, and his wife was not in love with the non-working, huge piece of furniture. LOL. It took about an hour and a half to clean, inspect and make several repairs to the movement. The fun part was teaching the owner's small children everything about clocks and showing them what I was doing. We talked about the man in the portrait, and how wealthy he must have been to have this clock made for him. Maybe he would give them good luck! We also talked about seeing the clock at night with candles, since there was no such thing as electricity back then. I think that mom was still skeptical.....until she heard it ticking away!

    The suspension spring was broken with the top half laying in the bottom of the case. The strike side ratchet click spring was bent, and not working to hold the click against the gear. The crutch was loose and had to be soldered. The cables were in decent condition as well. The pivots were not too dirty, but dry. After the repairs, cleaning and lubrication, I mounted the movement back in the fingers were crossed hoping that I would not have to take the movement home to polish all of the pivots and do a complete overhaul. .........and then....... it came back to life! After setting the beat.......the clock was ticking away after decades of sitting idle. Some of these Philadelphia tall case clocks can be valuable, so I'm doing some research in order to provide the owner with an insurance value. If you can help with that, please let me know. What a great service call. I made new friends...and maybe inspired some new horologists! I love this job!

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    Chris Radano likes this.
  2. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

    Jun 1, 2006
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    A lovely story and a very nice longcase clock. Mr. Joseph Wills is listed, the entry says "South Molton, Devon (born circa 1700) -1722, then to Philadelphia by 1725, died 1759. I know South Molton well as it is only about an hour from me and an old friend lives there, it is an old market town close to Exmoor national park.
  3. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

    Feb 18, 2004
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    I'm sure the wife would have liked the clock even more if the portrait had moving eyes.:chuckling:

    Looks like a solid cherry case.
  4. JTD

    JTD Registered User

    Sep 27, 2005

    First of all, I liked the story very much and am glad this fine old clock is now working again and loved at least by some of family. Well done!

    As to the portrait being of the first owner, I am not so sure. It is not a very flattering likeness and whoever it is doesn't seem to have a shirt on. It is not at all typical of portraits of that time. Perhaps a lot of details are hidden under years of grime - if it were mine I would love to gently clean that portrait! I am wondering more if it might be a portrait of some classical person, but who I could not say (or even guess).

  5. new2clocks

    new2clocks Registered User
    NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Apr 25, 2005
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    Here is another Joseph Wills tall case that was shown on this board:

    Joseph Wills


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